WHSmith reports 7% dip in high street sales

WHSmith has revealed a 7% dip in its high street like-for-like sales for the 20 weeks to January 17, although sales are down just 3% when its CD and DVD arm is excluded.

City analysts are suggesting the retailer’s entertainment sales has been hit by the demise of Woolworth’s distribution arm, Entertainment UK, which followed its sister company into administration on Christmas Eve.

The retailer reported its travel agent arm WHSmith Travel has held up relatively well with only a 1% drop in like-for-like sales. Chief executive Kate Swann says the retailer is “pleased” with “progress” in the travel division, but she adds that it will be “accelerating cost reduction plans” to cope with “subdued” consumer spending in its markets.

The cost savings are expected to come from a faster than anticipated withdrawal from sales of DVDs and CDs, which the retailer announced it would be replacing with more profitable book titles last April (MW April 17).

Meanwhile, Stylo, the parent company of shoe retailer Barrat’s and Priceless parent, has been placed into administration. Stylo says it hopes to pay-off creditors via restructuring and re-financing by administrators rather than a sell-off of the businesses, which will continue to trade as normal.

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